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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1498

Senator HARRADINE(9.22) —I enter this debate to make a few brief comments mainly directed to proposed new sub-sections (6), (7) and (8) which are part of clause 4 of the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 1984. I will deal with those in the Committee stage, but before I do so I feel bound to say something about the debate thus far. We are dealing with the motion that the Bill be now read a second time and the amendment moved by the Opposition to that motion. At this stage, I am in agreement with the first part of the amendment, that is, that the Senate disagrees with the Government's action in seeking to remove reference to Her Majesty the Queen from the oath of allegiance and the affirmation of allegiance. The second part of the Opposition's amendment views with concern the Government's deliberate devaluation of the importance of the honour of Australian citizenship. To the extent that the Government has done a number of things including juxtaposing the affirmation and the oath, I suppose an argument could be sustained in support of that proposition. I would have thought that that was not warranted, that the Government should not have done that in Schedule 1. I think the wording should have been similar to alternative forms of pledges and so on. At any rate, I will leave it at that.

Whilst I go along with the first part of the amendment, and indeed with the rest of it, I feel that the wording of the existing Schedule needs tidying up. I feel that it needs to reflect more appropriately the feelings of those who wish to take the oath or the affirmation and become citizens of Australia. I think citizenship is a two-way thing. Firstly, Australia should have regard to the sensibilities of those who wish to become Australian citizens. Thus at some stage there is a need for the words to be amended. I think that is generally agreed around the chamber. I believe that the Opposition also has the view that a tidying up of the actual words would be appropriate. However, as I said, at this stage it is inappropriate to take out the reference to the Queen of Australia from the oath of allegiance and the affirmation of allegiance. It is particularly inappropriate to to so without consulting adequately the people of Australia. Whether this is done by means of a referendum is another matter, although if a government seeks to take out the name of the Queen of Australia from the pledge of Australian citizenship that is a very important reflection of its attitude.

I am not a rip-roaring, blue-blooded, pro-monarchist in any shape or form, but I say that we need to consider a number of factors in this republican versus monarchy debate. Whilst I suppose that for most people the debate is not of pressing urgency-other matters are of more pressing urgency-we must face the fact that it will grow in significance during the years leading up to our bicentenary year. I think the debate will probably grow in significance. The fact is that all people need a head of state to personalise the core values and symbolise the unity of their nation. In an interjection to Senator Bjelke- Petersen, I said: 'Maybe it is King Malcolm of Nareen or King Gough of Blue Poles'. But, more importantly, a head of state must be either born or trained to act within the constraints of a constitutional or historical straitjacket and possess the authority or moral force to preserve power for the people. In my view, that cannot be done in a presidential system because of the very nature of the political expressions in a parliamentary democracy, such as the Westminster system, of responsible government, as distinct from the United States of America system of representative government.

Honourable senators will recall the coup in Spain in 1981. The attempted takeover of its parliament, which was televised internationally, shocked viewers right throughout the world. We will recall the would-be dictator, goose-stepping with flailing arms and the wild look which resembled John Cleese of Fawlty Towers but that was a crisis to which Spain was subjected. It was a serious challenge which was defused only by the constitutional action and moral authority of King Juan Carlos. How the republicans must have winced at the sight of a Bourbon king of Spain acting to preserve power for the people. One wonders whether South American republics would have been better served had some form of Spanish Commonwealth and constitutional monarchy been developed. Nearer our shores the recent attempted coup in Thailand in 1981 was also defused by the King of Thailand using his moral authority and constitutional powers. These matters ought to be seriously considered, even by those who have not a great deal of time for the monarchy. Here are three examples in which a constitutional monarch has saved democracy.

Another important point was made by Senator Bjelke-Petersen; that is, that we are a Federation. Not only is the Queen the Queen of Australia, but also there are representatives of the Queen in the various States of the Federation. This must be borne in mind during the republic versus monarchy debates. If Australia is to become a republic, in what way would the States be guaranteed the same reserved protection now available to them in recourse to the common understanding of existing constitutional principles and the moral and legal force of the constitutional monarch's own representatives in the States to uphold the rights of the States in the Federation?

Senator Crichton-Browne —The power of the States would be reduced dramatically.

Senator HARRADINE —I am just raising these matters for consideration by people who may wish to take Australia into a republic. These matters must be seriously discussed and debated if this debate is to be removed from the sort of sloganeering that it has developed into. I now turn to the other matter that I wish to deal with; that is, the provisions in the legislation which deal with the citizenship of persons conceived by artificial insemination by donor or in- vitro fertilisation. These provisions are contained in the interpretation clause 4 (f) which proposes new sub-sections (6), (7) and (8) which provide fixed rules for deciding, for the purposes of the Act, the descent or immediate ancestral line of a child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination by donor or of in-vitro fertilisation.

I believe that this Bill is not a suitable vehicle for seeking to settle or even to contribute to the current public debate on the acceptability or otherwise of artificial insemination by donor or in-vitro fertilisation procedures generally and on how the performance of these procedures should be regulated by law. If the provisions of the kind proposed in this legislation were essential to the operation of the Australian Citizenship Act, that might be a different question. However, that is not so; they are not essential to the legislation. In fact, any doubt as to the citizenship of a person who is born as a result of AID or IVF procedures could readily be resolved by the exercise of the general powers conferred on the Minister by section 32 of the Act, which states:

. . . grant a certificate of Australian citizenship to a person with respect to whose status as an Australian citizen a doubt exists.

So those provisions are not essential to this legislation. My concern about their being placed in the legislation is that the medical procedures of AID and IVF raise bioethical questions of considerable importance to the whole of the Australian community. They are questions on which public debate is continuing amongst well informed sections of the community. I attended part of one of the seminars that were conducted in Melbourne in respect of these medical procedures . They have not been finally resolved in an informed and responsible way by legislation or otherwise. In the circumstances, I ask this question of the Senate: Should this Parliament contribute in a wholly uninformed way to the resolution of these questions? The Parliament is uninformed. These matters have been shoved in here and the Parliament is uninformed. If we are to debate these procedures let us have a substantive, informed debate about them. Unless the paragraphs that I propose to be omitted in the Committee stage are omitted from the Bill the very existence of those paragraphs in the legislation will be used by those who would seek to legitimise AID and IVF procedures, irrespective of the cut-off point, I might add, and use those provisions as legislative recognition or endorsement of their legitimacy.

The debate on the Australian Citizenship Act is not the occasion for this Parliament to get itself involved in bioethical issues raised by AID or IVF. I consider that this is a very real question. I will be seeking to delete from the Bill paragraph (f), sub-paragraphs (5), (6), (7) and (8) of clause 4. I hope that the Senate understands that that will not place those persons who are born as a result of those procedures at a disadvantage. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) already has the ability to deal with those situations. It is also not administratively difficult because the Minister also has power to delegate that authority. I hope that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) and the Government give that matter due consideration in their response to the second reading debate.